PYEONGCHANG: North Korea says it is not interested in meeting US Vice President Mike Pence while he is in South Korea for the Pyeongchang Olympics.
With Pyongyang sending a senior delegation including Kim Jong Un's younger sister, rumours had circulated such a meeting could be in the works. A top Foreign Ministry official seemed to rule that out in comments carried by the North's state-run media today.
"We have no intention to meet with the US side during the stay in South Korea," the official was quoted as saying. "We are not going to use such a sports festival as the Winter Olympics as a political lever. There is no need to do so."
Pence was to arrive in South Korea from Japan on Thursday and move to Pyeongchang tomorrow.
Kim's sister, the first member of the North's ruling family to ever visit South Korea, is expected to come on Friday just ahead of the opening ceremony. North Korea's nominal head of state and senior statesman, 90-year-old Kim Yong Nam, is expected to join her.
The mood has hardly been conducive to any US.-North Korea meeting despite the proximity in Pyeongchang.
Washington has been stepping up its anti-Pyongyang rhetoric while North Korea has been trying to use the Olympics as an opportunity to ease tensions with South Korea. Some see Pyongyang's conciliatory gestures toward Seoul as a calculated move to drive a wedge between the US and its ally.
If that's the case, it may already be paying off for Kim Jong Un.
In response to a North Korean request, Seoul has agreed to postpone annual military maneuvers with the US until after the games are over and has asked for some sanctions to be waived so that more contacts and exchanges with the North can be made.